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Korbanot sacrifices, honesty and changing the Mussaf prayer


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Tevet 26, 5779
I am a so-called "modern orthodox" Jew and am troubled by the many Tefilot asking for the return of the sacrificial service. I have asked many colleagues what they really feel in their heart of hearts about the return of the sacrificial service as an expression of Judaism. Most, if not all, were surprised and also troubled about this question and were very reluctant to answer it honestly. But quite a few hesitatingly admitted that deep down they do not really want this service to be reactivated but would never publicly admit to this. My rabbi and other rabbis I confronted with this all said that it is Halachically mandatory to want and to pray for the return, but I detect some very slight reluctance even from them as well. I believe that God permitted or even caused the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash in order to wean our people from the concept of animal sacrifice. I have decided, in the name of personal integrity and honesty, to personally eliminate these prayers. Your honest thoughts, please. Thanks.
The “mainstream” opinion is that the service in the Third Temple, which we pray will be speedily rebuilt, will be similar to the first two Temples, including animal sacrifices, and that’s why we pray for them. That being said, it’s important to publicize that Rabbi A. I. Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel and undoubtedly an outstanding and generally accepted first-rate orthodox halachic authority, deals extensively with the possibility (!) that there may not be animal sacrifices in the future Temple, perhaps just vegetarian offerings (see Malachi 3, 4, where the future envisages “m’nachot” from oil, wheat, wine, spices, etc., Kvatzim miKtav Yad Kodsho II, pp. 15-17). In addition, all agree that should the Sanhedrin decide that animal sacrifices drives away more Jews than it brings closer to God and Torah, they have the power to temporarily (which could be for a long time…) veto them. Nevertheless, as long as we don’t have a Sanhedrin, we can’t and it would also be terribly unwise to start making such drastic changes in basic Jewish traditions, like the prayerbook, even according to Rav Kook. We Jews have a long memory and must learn from experience. What you’re suggesting is identical to the changes of Reform Jews, who started changing certain prayers, and this inevitably led to just about total assimilation in their movement and families. The reformers in Judaism end up “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”, which would be a lot more tragic than anything. On the other hand, when something is factually untrue (like the descriptions of an empty Jerusalem recited in Nachem on Tisha b’Av), then many rabbis, myself included, posit that we can and must change those few words, in the name of honesty and relevance, but to “revamp” or take out all of the musaf prayer is unthinkable for anyone who respects tradition and halacha! As an individual, I suggest you continue to do as all others, and not separate or differentiate yourself.
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